By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects growth, learning abilities and motor development in the patient.
There is no cure for the condition.
Most patients are diagnosed with the condition early in life. Only one in 9 affected children grows out of the “Clumsy child syndrome.”
The rest carry the symptoms into teenage and adulthood years.
However, with early diagnosis and appropriate therapy it is possible for Dyspraxia sufferers to live a near normal life and achieve their full potential.
What specialists are used to treat dyspraxia?
Diagnosis and therapy involves a team approach with numerous specialists.
- speech and language therapists,
- physical therapists,
- clinical and educational psychologists,
- occupational therapists,
- neurodevelopmental paediatricians
Each of these people along with parents and the teachers may help the dyspraxic child learn to perform problematic daily activities, hone reading and writing skills and adapt to social systems with behavioural changes. (1)
There are several different specific therapies, including the following. (2)
An occupational therapist helps identify the extent of problems.
For example, some children may have more speech problems than gross motor problems like walking or running.
Yet others may have more problems with dressing, eating by self, writing etc.
Each of these children need to be identified for their individual deficiencies and treated accordingly.
An occupational therapist helps find a solution to specific problems. This could be provision of crutches for walking or helping break down complex actions to small do-able steps etc.
Language and speech therapy
These therapists help children who have language and speech difficulties. Sometimes a particular letter or syllable may be the stumbling block in speech.
Some children may speak too fast or slow or too loud and high pitched.
A therapist helps modify these problems with speech. These may include exercises of lips or tongue, practicing sounds, breath control and speech modulation.
A therapist may also help with language development, development of hearing and listening skills, reading, spelling, writing and movement skills.
Physical therapists offer exercises, massage and other physiotherapy techniques for better motor coordination and balance.
These may slowly help improve motor skills in an affected child.
Clinical and educational psychologists
Children and teenagers with dyspraxia often also suffer from low self esteem, depression and other mental health problems. They need to be assessed and need the help of clinical psychologists who can help them overcome the barriers.
Assessment of coexisting learning and behavioural problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia and Autism spectrum disorders is also important.
Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists may help assess and treat these conditions.
Pediatricians and Neurodevelopmental paediatricians
These are doctors who assess the child’s health. They may help exclude other neurological conditions that may mimic dyspraxia like cerebral palsy.
They also keep an overall watch on the child’s neurological and general growth and health.
Counselling and support
Dyspraxic children need patience, care and support from family and friends. These children should be encouraged to make friends and understand social relationships. (3)
Edited by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
What is Dyspraxia?